Cost of rail electrification could be halved, new report suggests

Cost of rail electrification could be halved, new report suggests

Rail electrification can be delivered significantly more cost effectively than some previous upgrade projects, at between a third and half less, a new report from the Railway Industry Association (RIA), suggests.

In the report RIA, the national trade body for the UK’s rail supply community, uses examples from both the UK and internationally to show how the cost of rail electrification has already reduced, and with a 10-year rolling programme of electrification work, it says this could be brought down even further. 

The report, RIA Electrification Cost Challenge, calls on the Government to collaborate with the rail industry and renew its commitment to electrification, following the cancellation of a number of schemes in July 2017.

David Clarke, Technical Director at the Railway Industry Association, said the Government needs to commit to a rolling programme of work which would allow rail businesses to build up and retain expertise, further reducing the cost of future schemes.

 “Electrification is clearly the optimal solution for intensively used railway lines, and should be seen as the priority choice in a hierarchy of options if the Government is serious about decarbonising the rail network by 2040. 

“The lessons from previous projects, including the Great Western Electrification Programme, are clear but we should stop using these projects as a benchmark for the cost of future schemes. Instead, we urge Government to work closely with RIA and rail businesses – as requested by the Transport Select Committee and agreed to by Government last September – to revise its policy on electrification where it is the right long-term solution. Only by doing so will we be able to decarbonise the rail network by 2040, and deliver a cleaner and more cost-effective railway network.”

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, welcomed the report: “The most recently completed schemes demonstrate that we’ve made good progress in reducing the cost of electrification.  This report takes the debate forward, brings insight to the challenges and solutions for successful delivery and illustrates that we can sustain a hard-earned level of industry capability through efficient investment in electrification.”

 Stephen Blakey, Commercial Projects Director at Network Rail, added: “Network Rail and RIA collaborated successfully on this report with both parties keen to ensure a balance, analysis and insight appropriate to such an important issue. Our industry needs to improve its ability to illustrate what rail investment should cost, will cost, did cost and why and this report helps do just that.”

Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: "I welcome the report and am pleased to see its strong support for a 10-year programme of rolling electrification to achieve long-term cost reductions for the railway."

Mark Gaynor, Interim Director of Planning, Engineering and Operations at the Rail Delivery Group said: “Electrification means faster and more reliable journeys for customers, and it benefits our communities by cutting noise and air pollution. 

“As we work to improve the railway today and for the future, this report is valuable in underlining these benefits and highlighting that electrifying our network does not need to break the bank.” 

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "The scale and pace of rail electrification must increase if we are to tackle air pollution, meet our legally binding climate change targets and reverse the long term underinvestment in transport infrastructure outside of London and the South East. We're calling on the Government to commit to a rolling programme of electrification to invigorate our railways, bringing them into the 21st Century in a way that is affordable."